Some of the Faithful Who Follow Football and Other Sports Believe Their Prayers Influence the Outcome of the Game

FILE – Permian linebacker Israel Martinez, left, and defensive lineman Tyler Tomlinson pray before a high school football game against Abilene on Friday, Oct. 17, 2014, at Shotwell Stadium in Abilene, Texas. Abilene won 30-13. A poll by The Associated Press and the NORC Center for Public Affairs Research conducted Sept. 9-12, 2022, finds that about 3 in 10 Americans say they feel God plays a role in determining which team goes home the victor. (Edyta Blaszczyk/Odessa American via AP, File)

Some of the Faithful Who Follow Football and Other Sports Believe Their Prayers Influence the Outcome of the Game

Dolores Mejia thought the Chicago Bears could use a Hail Mary.

In fact, she said the prayer several times as she watched the 1986 Super Bowl, pairing the intercession to the Holy Mother with two other rosary staples — the Our Father and the Glory Be — before her team defeated the New England Patriots 46-10 and took home their first and only Vince Lombardi Trophy.

“I was ecstatic, but I couldn’t believe it,” she said.

While appeals to the divine are not a fundamental part of most sports fans’ playbooks, Mejia and others like her believe prayer has the power to influence who goes home the victor. About 3 in 10 U.S. adults say they believe it can play a role in determining who wins a sporting event, and a similar percentage say God plays a role, according to a new poll from The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research.

Among fans of professional sports, 23% say they have prayed about the outcome of a contest, according to the poll. Religious background is a factor: 35% of evangelical fans say they have done so, compared with 21% of fans of other religious faiths. But professional sports fans don’t have to believe to pray. The poll shows that 15% of nonreligious fans say they too have prayed for the outcome of a game.

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